Julian Kynaston Illamasqua Interview

July 2, 2011

Interviews | by James Joseph

Julian Kynaston is the founder of Illamasqua. A man who is pioneering individualism, the right to self-expression and fighting prejudice head on. We had the honour to interview him on creative satisfaction, androgyny, his beliefs and of course the cult makeup brand.

When you decided to turn to cosmetics and establish Illamasqua, what inspired the ethos and message that Illamasqua holds so close to its brand core?

JK: Part of creating Illamasqua was about what fun it would be, and how brave, to turn the stale, predictable and clinical cosmetics market on its head; to rip up all the established codes and re-write them.

To pioneer an emotional brand in such a product-centric, dictatorial market – Illamasqua today evolved from this single initial idea.

Supporting this vision was a lifelong love affair with subcultures, a deeply held belief in the human need, and right, to self-express and an innate frustration that the most pivotal means to self-expression.

I.E., professional make-up, had been faked and misappropriated by the high street goliaths, marginalising creativity and artistry to the often inaccessible shelves of film and theatre make-up suppliers. Put simply, Illamasqua has at its core a belief in freedom and the human right to celebrate life as an individual – that’s why the Sophie Lancaster Foundation is at the heart of everything we do.

Both Stylenoir and Illamasqua stand for individualism and freedom of expression. How do you think Illamasqua inspires those to dare to be themselves and break social boundaries?

JK: Illamasqua doesn’t use imagery to dictate what self-expression looks like – we know that it is as individual and as unique as every single human being on this planet. Our collections, and the creative campaigns that support them, are created to inspire, to challenge boundaries and break them, to turn preconceived norms of what constitutes beauty and art on their head in a way that gives people the permission and freedom to truly be themselves.

Refusing to be everybody liberates the heart and soul – you only have to look at our fantastic make-up artists who, in beauty halls across the world, make it their mission to ‘make a scene’ – I think the fact that we don’t just say ‘different’, but actually actively ‘do different’, is hugely inspirational to our fans and customers.

Has this affected you personally, do you feel that society was trying to restrain you, your own individualism and expression at any point in your life?

JK: Each of us knows what it feels like to be put in a box, stereotyped, judged – be it for the way we look, for our beliefs, or even our sexuality. Sadly, there are so many ways that as a race, we humans compartmentalise each other. But, for me, creating Illamasqua was driven by a desire to reach out and find like-minded people to connect with, rather than as a personal revolt – people who live make-up and the art of self-expression, exciting creative people who breed passion and enthusiasm. The feedback we receive from our loyal followers around the world confirms the positive force of what we do – their relationship with Illamasqua is life-changing.

At Stylenoir we are known to cause controversy. You have been quoted to say “weʼre not scared to fall out with anyone” how do you think that attitude helps and advances Illamasqua as a brand? Is passion the key in branding and business?


JK: The beauty sector is dominated by huge, multi-million pound organisations who could easily intimidate or crush us – Illamasqua can either be submissive and become diluted and diminished, or we can be brave and confident and believe in our ability to outthink, if not outspend, our competitors.

We believe in what we do, not aggressively, but definitely unapologetically – we bow to no-one.

Also, we push to constantly raise the bar for ourselves, in terms of what we can achieve – we are always driving new product innovations and evaluating and improving our customer’s experience. Yes we are driven, yes we are confident, and a shared passion for Illamasqua is what defines every single person who works in the business.

Creatively if Illamasqua could produce a marketing campaign with absolutely no restrictions, the ultimate experience, what would it be and what medium/s would you use?

JK: Personally, it would be to develop a single idea that was so original and compelling that without any structured marketing at all, it spread out across every media of the world as the talking point of millions.

If Illamasqua was a creature, a woman perhaps, what would she be like? What values would she hold and what type of person would she be?
JK: Ok, well, first of all, Illamasqua as a creature would be neither male nor female, but androgynous; a vampire that intoxicated you at a glance, thrilled you, mesmerised you, and sent a shiver down your spine. This creature would be so beautiful you would not be able to look away, but become a willing slave to its aesthetic perfection. Enigmatic, powerful, sublime – I’d like to meet the Illamasqua vampire!

To you personally, what has been your greatest moment of success and your greatest moment of satisfaction with Illamasqua?

JK: Without doubt, personal success and satisfaction with Illamasqua came together in one hugely significant event for me – Sophie’s Mum, Sylvia Lancaster presented me with a framed photograph of her daughter after the launch of Illamasqua’s ‘Dark Angel’ film, a beautiful and haunting rendition of Sophie’s story. The film was launched to raise awareness and funds for the Foundation, to support them in their work to take education on tolerance into schools; such a personal gift from Sylvia meant everything.

Are there any insider rumours on what Illamasqua is venturing forwards into in the near future you could share with us?

JK: Because it’s you Stylenoir, I’m going to share with you that we are launching our first ever fragrance later this year, and in a way that no-one else has ever achieved before, plus look out for a change in direction to the way we do collections, starting with Spring/Summer next year!

Finally, can you give us a short quote or comment on your view of Stylenoir Magazine?

JK: My view on Stylenoir? It makes perfect reading for after-dark stimulation of the senses – love it!